Welcome to Forced Regionalization

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This space has been a big proponent of regionalization, with a strong preference for organic, self-directed regionalization. For the towns surrounding Lawrence, they may not have that luxury.

When we looked at the attempt to regionalize fire services on the South Shore in the report linked above, one unexpected finding was that some communities already received an implicit subsidy based on mutual aid agreements (and were loathe to enter into a regionalization agreement that caused them to have to pay up for what they were getting for free).

The City of Lawrence appears to be doing something similar. It has cut back its fire department staffing to what appears to this layman to be extraordinarily low levels. As a result, other towns are regularly responding to calls.

This past weekend,

Fifteen on-duty firefighters were recently left to battle two multiple-alarm fires in quick succession, necessitating help from surrounding fire departments. Firefighters from 12 other towns were called in with the first fire, and, just hours later, firefighters from 14 towns were called in for the second.

In total, since the budget cuts took effect,

Lawrence has summoned help from other communities six times, compared with nine times all last year.

There may be some subsidies in mutual aid agreements but, as the name suggests, there has to be some mutual benefit. We’ll see how long Lawrence’s neighbors will accept this state of affairs.